TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Latvia's foreign minister announced Thursday that his government intends to establish full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, despite certain opposition from China.
'The steps which we are going to take economically and politically will, and I am absolutely sure, lead to our diplomatic relations,' Latvian Foreign Minister Janis Jurkans said.
Jurkans arrived Sunday in Taiwan as part of a 25-member delegation headed by Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis.
During the visit, Latvia and Taiwan signed an investment-protection agreement, as well as a letter of intent to establish direct air links between Taipei and Riga.
Earlier this year, Latvia also agreed to establish cousular relations with Taiwan, prompting China to recall its Latvian ambassador and downgrade relations with the Baltic republic. But Taiwan reportedly offered Latvia $10 million in low-interest loans as a result of the agreement.
Thursday, when asked about China's response to full Taiwan-Latvia relations, Primier Godmanis responded: 'We are a free and independent country and it's their choice what they want to do.'
China, whose communist armies drove Nationalist Chinese forces from the mainland to the island of Taiwan in 1949, views Taipei as a renegade government. The mainland does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with any nation that has an embassy in Taiwan.
Currently, 137 nations recognize Beijing, while 29 have relations with Taipei.
The United States recognizes mainland China, but also maintains unofficial ties with Taiwan.